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Mindfulness 101: Mindfulness and Clutter

Originally published in the American Bar Association GPSolo's eReport November 2018

Mindfulness is a multi-faceted practice with many prongs and activities to do as you move toward enlightenment and living in a state where you have substantially less stress and more time to enjoy your life. We have discussed rituals, meditation, spending time each day reading uplifting content, exercising—even if it is just 15 to 20 minutes a day, the benefits will pile up quick—nutrition, and the need to get proper rest. I hear complaints on my many Texas Facebook groups about all kinds of lawyers having problems on all these fronts. I try to stick in my mindfulness information about energy management, but sometimes I feel people would just like to complain, groan, and then go on, work long hours, ignore the family, eat the wrong foods, drink too much, then have horrible sleep, with stress and worry keeping them up all night. I seriously read about these young lawyers venting on Facebook, but no one really seems to want solutions. We do have a profession in crisis.

I want you all, the ones who actually read my short, bimonthly Mindfulness 101 columns, to take this seriously and realize that if you just stick with it a few months, it will change your life for the better in myriad ways—you will have less stress and more time to do the things you need to do. Just a five-to-ten-minute meditation in the morning and a short one before you go to sleep will help you tame that monkey brain, and you will get insights and solutions to problems in ways you never thought possible. But doing it once or twice and then quitting doesn’t cut it. You know that. Lawyers are smart people. They could take to this much easier than other professions if I just could get their attention long enough and help them not fear the process so much. I’m working on it one bimonthly column at a time.

What I want to discuss this month is a project that would be a great one to begin now and do in December so that you can start the new year with clean and uncluttered energy in your home and your office. I must confess that I have a “black hole” in two places. On is by my bed where I have this little table stuck in the corner—it’s not my nightstand, but it’s next to it. I travel a lot, so I dump all the stuff there that I am not going to take on my trip, or I put all the stuff I got from my trip there. Now it is just a big pile of stuff I don’t want to tackle, and it looks hideous. Energy drain. Then at the office I have a place where I dump all my trip files and all the materials I bring back from trips: speeches, copies of PowerPoints, and sign-up sheets. I just throw that stuff on there, and I never seem to have time to clean it up. I actually did right before my new law clerk, Sarah Lonvick, came on board in September, but now it’s already back in the same shape it was. Both of those “black holes” will be fixed by January 1—hold me accountable!

I want to recommend to you the podcast of a good friend of mine. Her name is Judy Carter, and she is a hilarious, former stand-up comedian who has been on The Oprah Winfrey Showseveral times. This is a new podcast called The Power of Purpose, where she explores how to create and live a purposeful life. It’s free to subscribe.

I met Judy through the National Speakers Association. I picked her up at the airport and went to dinner with her before the event, and we have been friends ever since. She uses humor in everything she does and is a great coach for how to find your purpose. Judy has several best-selling books published by Simon & Schuster, and her latest is published by St. Martin’s Press and is called the Message of You.

In one of her podcasts she says the same thing I say all the time:

Go into your closet. Your closet will tell you where you are at in life. Closets contain a lot of baggage. A lot of the past. Throw everything away that is not you because you cannot add any more to your life until you can get rid of the past. The biggest way you can change your life is to control it by getting rid of what doesn’t fit.

She talks about keeping old clothes. People lament, “I’ll wear that size 6 pants again someday.” I say, “Yeah, by the time you are a six 6 again you will want a new pair of pants.” Judy says, “Nature abhors a vacuum. You can’t bring the new into your life until the past is gone. You will feel more successful and readier to tackle the world if your life is in order.”

I agree. I make up my bed each morning. Nothing is worse than coming home to a messy bed. You want to leave your home with a smile on your face and ready to tackle the tasks ahead. Judy says, “Clean it up and get rid of it and see what happens.” Ashley Hallene, a GPSolo Division Council member and author of several books, said the same thing when she was my law clerk and I had such a hard time getting rid of old things I had carried with me for so long that weren’t even part of what we were doing then. Ashley said, “Just throw it away and see what happens.” She was wise then, and I let her do it. I finally said, “Just don’t even tell me about it.” I didn’t miss a thing. And neither will you.

About this time last year, I started a project at my home due to some Hurricane Harvey damage to my roof and my windows. I needed to paint the whole house. I had been there ten years, and it was time for a change. I loved the old but wanted a clean and minimalist vibe now. Everything came out of the closets so that they could be painted. My closets had gotten so packed I could not even find things, and my drawers were so full. I made the commitment that I was not going to put anything back in the closets or drawers that was not a NOW thing. When I cleaned out my master closet, I didn’t put anything back in until I wore it and it was washed and dried and put in the newly painted master. I gave all those small clothes I got four years ago when I was skinny for a nanosecond away to a girlfriend who is on cloud nine now. When I get back there, and I will soon, I will just get new things. But closets aren’t for storing all the old stuff we don’t even remember we have—they are for storing what we are using NOW. I love having the ability to see the backs of my closets and to have extra space for what’s coming. I love to look at people’s closets in their homes. It shows you a lot about people. And I love to show people my closets. I love that Judy Carter feels the same way. I must have given away or thrown away at least half of everything that was in there. Tons of shoes and all kinds of things that aren’t serving me now. But there are some women at my housekeeper’s church who have all my stuff, and that makes me very happy.

Cleaning out your house also includes the garage. I did a major purge on the garage, and it feels so good not to have that hanging over me. I drive in to a neat garage and just know the world is right. I even painted it, and it looks so much better.

Think about the clutter around you—all the magazines you will never read, the clothes you won’t ever wear, the appliances you won’t use. Wouldn’t it be better to get rid of it so you can have more energy in your life freed up for what you want to do to live your purpose?

It’s best to have a brutally honest friend to do it with you and keep you on the straight and narrow. When we were cleaning out my kitchen, my niece, Elise, asked me how many martini parties I had since I moved into this house—there were 14 dusty martini glasses in my cabinet. I answered, “None. But give me credit for being hopeful!” I must have envisioned Sex and the City parties or something, but they never happened. Needless to say, all the glasses went bye-bye, and I got rid of 15 boxes from my kitchen. It is so cool to see the backs of my cabinets and only have what I need and use in my pantry.

Karen Kingston is a Feng Shui expert, and she wrote an awesome book called Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui: Free Yourself from Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Clutter Forever (Broadway Books, 1999). Feng Sui is “the art of balancing and harmonizing the flow of natural energies in our surroundings to create beneficial effects in our lives.” Each space in your life carries energy. Old stuff at home or the office is dead energy. Dead energy blocks the power of new energy that you need to operate at optimum levels as a practicing attorney.

Karen encourages us to:

Free yourself from physical, mental, emotional and spiritual clutter forever. . . . Clutter has an energy space, it creates an obstacle to the flow of energy and has an unpleasant, sticky, unclean feel to it, as if I am moving my hands through an unseen cobweb. . . . Clutter causes problems in people’s lives. It can cause sickness and confusion. For your life to work well, it is vital to have a good flow of life force energy in your home and workplace. If you don’t, it can make you feel stuck.

I am not talking about the mental illness of hoarding, I am referring to the clutter we all accumulate that can be taken care of pretty easily. I know some men might be groaning right now because they know exactly the things on their honey-do list they need to get done. We spend more time and energy dreading doing it than when we just get it done! But doesn’t it feel good when that list is complete? And there are always handymen who can help if that isn’t your forte. Mine helps me with all this, too.

Unfinished and incomplete commitments do the same thing to us in terms of our energy and making us less productive. Make a list of your incompletes and messes. Is there room in your garage for only one car, even though it is a two-car garage? When was the last time you used that cooler, that AeroBed, and all the stuff you store there?

Do you have an attic? Luckily, mine is too small, and I believe anything stuck in the attic will never be used again. But clean out that attic. You will open yourself up for prosperity quicker next year. And your kids won’t have a holy mess on their hands when you pass, which is another bonus of living lean and mean.

Set up a date and time when you are going to get it all done. It was really a challenge for me when everything was out of my closets and my house was a wreck. The painting job went really slowly, and we had some setbacks and redos, too, but I got rid of so much stuff and it all feels so good. And I haven’t missed a thing. This month we are tackling clutter at the office, getting our closed files scanned in and sent to the shredder. The more you do it, the easier it gets, and you feel the lightness of being, too. Handling your daily workflow is easier because you don’t have piles of things hanging over your head.

Author and motivational speaker Jack Canfield talks about incompletes and messes, and those include people. Saying you’re sorry to someone you know you hurt is another area to tackle. Getting all your doctor appointments done this month is a good idea. Have we been putting off taking care of ourselves in favor of all those clients who think their needs are more important than our needs? We will better serve them if we do this inventory of our clutter and get rid of it in all areas of our lives. Plus, you will model these good behaviors to your children, and that will give them a sense of peace and security that will enable them to thrive, too.

I recommend we all use this holiday season, while Mercury is in retrograde from November 1 to December 24 when it goes back direct, to avoid starting new projects and other activities, and instead focus on finishing what we have started, and doing some introspection about our goals—what we achieved this year and what we want for next year and our inner work. Completing jobs that have long needed to be done—that gate lock changed, that old desk moved out of the office, that closet cleaned out, and all those nice clothes you can’t wear anymore given to a charity to help people less fortunate. Christmas time is a great time to do this. The things you don’t use anymore are things others will be happy to get, and you will be set up for a great new year where new things can come into your life.

Meditation will clear the clutter in your brain

Once you are mindful and you begin to meditate on letting go of clutter in your life and seeing how hanging onto the past is keeping you from your new, prosperous future, you will see how those piles that have stayed there for a long time are blocking the energy in your office—especially things sitting on the floor. You want the floor free of clutter. The law of attraction works better in a clean, uncluttered environment. Then, when January 1 comes and we are in a new year, we can set our goals and have a clean slate on which to do it. Mindfulness works!

Until next time . . . namaste. Please let me know if you have any tips, sources, or experiences with mindfulness you want to share at

“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”—Zen proverb

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